(AAAS 180P and 280Q)
Worldwide circulations of people, commodities, knowledge, and practices contributed to the spread of disease epidemics as well as the means to fight them. COVID-19 is a strong and present example of this process that has antecedents. Understanding how health management historically reflects local conditions prepares us to address contemporary health concerns. This course uses the idea of a pandemic to investigate global efforts to address disease and debility. In the fall, we begin with conceptual definitions and a brief history of disease and public health. We then examine case studies of the nineteenth and early twentieth century in Asia and their diasporic communities in North America. These cases allow for an investigation of the rise of health professionalization, governing bodies, and religious and humanitarian agencies, as well as the politics and economics that produce inequities in health and structures of care. Students will explore different research methods and digital platforms as they develop research projects on a global health crisis of their choice. Students will apply the knowledge and skills they gained to illustrate how history may instructively inform health policies and responses on a local and global scale. In the spring, students will conduct their research and submit a portfolio that includes dissemination of their findings through an appropriate outlet. This annual sequence will fulfill Composition (C), Humanities (H), or Oral Communication (O) general education requirements.
Sonja M. Kim is Associate Professor of Asian and Asian American Studies with a courtesy title in the Department of History. The author of Imperatives of Care: Women and Medicine in Colonial Korea (University of Hawai’i Press, 2019) and co-editor of the forthcoming volume Future Yet to Come: Sociotechnical Imaginaries in Modern Korea, she holds research and teaching interests on gender, health, and welfare in Asia and its diasporic communities.
Disinformation and Naiveté
(RUSS 180 and 280B)
A significant lack of knowledge about the culture and history of other nations plays a pivotal role in many different areas of our lives: the news, film, literature, tourism, pedagogy, international relations, arms proliferation, NATO expansion, disinformation, approaches to medical practice, and internet policy. This course will model an approach to studying international issues through intensive methodological and contextual analysis of Russian projections of disinformation and naiveté. In this two-course series, students develop and practice research skills to conceptualize how gaps in knowledge shape disciplinary discourses while also searching for productive and feasible ways to fill those gaps. During the first semester, students discuss and respond to readings about the roles that innocence, ignorance, and naiveté play in discourses about Russia and our world. Coming to grips with how little the average educated person knows about Russia helps the critical thinker develop research questions about how innocence and ignorance shape public discourse and policy. Students gain insight not only into the negative dimensions of what we don’t know, but into the power that naiveté, when observed, can unlock. During the second semester, students design and pursue a research project that grapples with the many-faceted ways in which our world is shaped by innocence and ignorance. Students may continue an avenue of interest they have found in Russian Studies, or they may transfer their experience of our study of Russia to a different culture or set of cultures. Over the course of this second semester, students will workshop, research, and complete projects that operationalize concepts of innocence and naiveté to test the boundaries of what we know.
Students will have the opportunity to collaborate with Professor Dement on the approach taken in this course in an article about what it means to turn the thing that seems like a weakness—lack of knowledge of a topic—into a strength. How can we as researchers recognize how much we don’t know in a way that empowers us to find compelling answers to incisive questions? Students will also have the opportunity to publish their research in the Binghamton University Undergraduate Journal or to turn their work into other media, such as a mini-documentary or podcast. This annual sequence will fulfill Composition (C), Humanities (H), or Oral Communication (O) general education requirements.
Professor Dement has spent the last twenty years studying, researching, or teaching Russian language and culture. The idea for this Source Project stream grows out of Dement's recent book, a cultural history of Russia's first and most important monument to Alexander Pushkin.
History & Capitalism
(JUST 180B and 280G)
Michael J. Kelly
In this year-long course sequence, students will learn a primary skill, the interpretive analysis of historical, literary or philosophical texts. This skill is fundamental for investigating any subject, including oneself, and, as such, this course is intended to establish a foundation for any major or minor course of study. We will exercise these basic skills by studying capitalism, the core ideology of our lives in America, and much of the world. Many aspects of our lives are dictated or significantly impacted by capitalism. Students will be able to choose case-studies in a specific field of interest to investigate more fully throughout the course.
In the Fall, we will read primary texts reaching back to the Bible and other early religious texts (such as the Mishnah and Talmud), as well as those of the ancient Greeks and Romans and medieval thinkers, before moving into modern thinking on history and into contemporary historical theory. This course will be discussion intensive. Participation will involve presenting ideas and responding to others in the class. In the Spring, we will employ the ideas and methods that we have learned from the Fall in an extended engagement with the theories and histories of capitalism. We will start by reading 18th-19th century authors on capital and economy, working our way into the texts of Karl Marx, Rosa Luxemburg, Naomi Klein, Alenka Zupancic, and Slavoj Zizek.
The Spring will culminate with an international gathering of students and scholars working on projects related to history and capitalism with the series “Capitalism’s Past”. Students’ presentations will showcase the research skills gained and how they are applied to specific topics. Students will have the opportunity to publish work in a book series dedicated to the Source Project and other undergraduate and graduate student research as a printed and open-access digital book by Gracchi Books, an imprint of Punctum Books. This annual sequence fulfills Harpur Writing (W), Composition (C), Humanities (H), Global Interdependencies (G), or Oral Communication (O) general education requirements.
Michael J. Kelly is Visiting Assistant Professor in Judaic Studies at Binghamton University (SUNY), General Editor of Gracchi Books, and Director of Networks and Neighbours. His teaching and research focus on the relationship between literature and history, critical theory, and the philosophy of history. His recent publications include Isidore of Seville and the “Liber Iudiciorum”: The Struggle for the Past in the Visigothic Kingdom, The Medieval and Early Modern Iberian World 80 (Boston/Leiden: Brill, forthcoming), Theories of History: History Read Across the Humanities (London: Bloomsbury, 2018) edited with Arthur Rose, and, with Dominique Bauer, The Imagery of Interior Spaces (NY: Punctum Books, 2019). He also is adapting two novels for the stage, with their author, Ariana Harwicz.
What is Human Nature?
(ANTH 150 and 250)
What does it mean to be human? How can the exploration of this question enable you to understand current events in our dynamic world? Start your academic career by investigating a fundamental question about life. Students in this course will learn to use the tools and perspectives of multiple disciplines, such as anthropology, psychology, philosophy, biology, and religion, and apply them to various facets of human life. We will consider what is fundamentally human about gender, sexuality, health, violence, and cooperation. We will evaluate the evidence used to make claims about humanity and look for what is missing from these explanations and where biases exist. In the second term, students will work on research projects that can help further our understanding of the possibilities of human nature. This course can be taken to fulfill the Social Sciences (N), Oral Communication (O), Wellness (S), and/or Harpur Writing (W) general education requirements.
Project Leader Kathleen Sterling is an associate professor of anthropology. Her research is centered in the French Pyrenees where she is currently co-director of the Peyre Blanque, an open-air late Paleolithic site. Her interests include lithic technology, learning and identity, communities of practice, Paleolithic visual imagery, hunting and gathering groups, gender and feminist science, Black feminist theory, landscape archaeology and the sociopolitics of archaeology. The themes of her work are concerned with dispelling myths about human ancestors as violent, primitive and limited. She is also concerned with equal opportunity in anthropology and science in general, particularly in the ways in which this has an impact on knowledge production.
Thinking Through Painting
(ARTH 180C and 180D)
This course is about investigating the effects that artists elicit through the materials they use and their techniques of application. It will take an historical approach to artists’ paints and painting techniques, paying particular attention to moments of intense experimentation with new formulations and transformed studio practices at specific historical junctures. How do specific artists mobilize paints, canvas, varnish, and other materials to communicate with viewers? We will explore who the artist imagines he or she is primarily engaging with and to what end, and how audiences and their manner of engagement with paintings is shaped in specific historical and cultural circumstances. Students will have hands-on experience with different kinds of paints—including tempera, oil, watercolors, and acrylics—to gain some insight into how they behave, along with techniques of application specific to particular paints and artists. No artistic expertise is necessary nor expected! During the first semester of the course, students will participate in the close analysis of several paintings from differing historical periods. We will use a range of analytic techniques and historical records to glean information concerning the pigments used, how they were applied, and whether or not the paintings are what they claim to be. The second semester of this two-course sequence will entail a guided research process whereby students will each conduct an in-depth analysis of a painting of any time period in the collection of the Binghamton University Art Museum and will together conceptualize and develop an exhibition focusing on these works that will open in the museum in the last week of the Spring semester. This annual sequence can be taken to fulfill the Aesthetics (A), Oral Communication (O), and Composition (C) general education requirements.
Pamela Smart is engaged in a series of studies concerned with the crafting of affect. The first, Sacred Modern: Faith, Activism, and Aesthetics in the Menil Collection (2011), addressed the crafting of aesthetic sensibility in the exhibitionary practices of an art museum. The second is concerned with the work of technical experts in sustaining the Rothko Chapel's venerated "atmospheric pressure," as the site undergoes restoration. It explores the technical challenge of calibrating prosaic exigencies of materials, security, access and climate, with institutional commitments to experiential intensity. The third study is interested in the visceral impact of materials, focusing on the newly developed acrylic paints deployed experimentally by artists working in collaboration with chemists in the mid-twentieth century. She is also interested in contemporary experiments in the form and function of the art museum.
People, Politics, and the Environment
(ENVI 105 and 205)
Dr. Robert Holahan and Dr. Valerie Imbruce
People live in places and imprint meaning and function on the natural environment. This can be a local, or even individual process, but is also inescapably tied to broader political, economic and cultural dynamics. As people move from place to place for any of life's reasons-whether to go to school, flee natural or political disasters or to seek new economic opportunity -- they are faced with learning about and integrating themselves into new places. How do we learn about a new place? How does our understanding of the places in which we live shape our ability to sustain ourselves and our environment? We will develop our own approach to studying the place you find yourself as a college student--Binghamton--how it came to be settled at the confluence of two rivers, its transition to a set of utopian, industrial communities with factory work that attracted European immigrants, to then become the birthplace of modern computing and aviation. We will consider this trajectory in the current post-industrial phase where flooding linked to global climate change, revitalized downtown areas and out-migration are major concerns.
Through field trips, discussions, and practice of various research methods, the first semester will introduce students to the ways that scholars and people who live and work in Binghamton define environmental issues. Students will have the chance to design their own research projects with faculty who study sustainable communities in the second semester to generate ideas about how to integrate social, environmental and economic needs to better the places in which we live. This annual sequence can be taken to fulfill the Social Sciences (N), Oral Communication (O), and Composition (C) general education requirements. It can also fulfill the requirements of ENVI 101 and 201 toward a major or minor in environmental studies.
Robert Holahan is an associate professor of environmental studies and political science. His primary area of research investigates environmental policy from a social-ecological perspective that incorporates the biological, ecological and geological characteristics of resource systems with the economics of human decision-making. His current research projects include a property-rights examination of unconventional oil and gas production, and a cross-national study on the vote choices of parliamentarians over environmental policies.
Valerie Imbruce is director of the Undergraduate Research Center and a research associate of Environmental Studies. Her research has focused on the influence of urban demands on food supply networks and agricultural systems, particularly among Asian-American communities in New York City. She has consulted on international agriculture development projects as well as worked with grassroots food system organizations in the United States. She is committed to fostering interdisciplinary research and education since many of the world's problems do not fall into the disciplinary categories of higher education and believes undergraduate research is one way to accomplish this goal.